Brandenburg plays up to his ability, scores 8 goals in Mavs' win over Rockhurst
Almost two weeks ago, Steve Brandenburg had a bad game as the Colorado Mesa University men’s lacrosse team lost by one goal to Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri.
“He let a freshman shut him down for the majority of the game,” Mavericks coach Vince Smith said Tuesday night. “So we challenged him. We told him that you can be the best player in the country if you want to be.”
Brandenburg answered that challenge in the rematch, ripping off a string of highlight-reel goals and single-handedly outscoring the Hawks in Mesa’s 13-7 win at Walker Field.
The senior netted eight goals, four in each half, including a pair of scores late that brought the crowd to its feet. The first was a shot Brandenburg took from his left shoulder as he was pinched between two Rockhurst defenders and the final goal, coming with 29 seconds remaining, was scored after Brandenburg beat two defenders and the goalie by slicing through the heart of Rockhurst’s zone defense.
Consistent, nearly constant ball movement opened things up for Brandenburg as he scored from all over the field. Five of his goals were assisted and two more came on battles near the cage. Hardly any of his success came from attacking defenders in one-on-one situations and Brandenburg said that’s a sign of an offense in rhythm.
“The passing was key,” Brandenburg said. “It’s pretty great cashing in those goals while taking maybe 20 steps.” Most of the Mavericks’ early scoring opportunities spawned, in part, from unsuccessful clears by Rockhurst. The Hawks failed to clear eight times as Mesa’s attackmen and midfielders jockeyed hard for possession, creating turnovers without allowing the Hawks to mount an attack. Rockhurst put only seven shots on frame in the first half, failed to clear seven times, and committed 13 turnovers.
“We came into this game with three goals — cut down on turnovers, do better in man-up situations and limit their opportunities when they’re clearing with our ride-game,” Smith said. “I think the last one was really key today. Those were eight extra possessions that we wouldn’t have had otherwise, that only happened because of our ride-game.”
The Mavericks opened with a 5-0 run, capped by a man-up goal from Brandenburg, his third score of the game at that point. They dominated possession for that stretch, as the Hawks had only one series in their attacking half in that span.
From there, Rockhurst answered with two goals — the second coming after a pair of slashing penalties assessed against Colorado Mesa — before the Mavericks responded with two goals. It was Brandenburg who first found the net, scoring from at least 20 yards out on an assist from Calen Ketcham. Then, Ketcham got a goal of his own roughly two minutes later to put the Mavericks up 7-2.
Rockhurst sneaked in a goal moments before halftime and were the first team to score on the other side of the break, but never cut Mesa’s lead to fewer than three goals in the second half.
Swimming & Diving
All six Colorado Mesa divers made it through Tuesday’s prequalifying to compete at the national meet the rest of this week.
Sage D’Ambrosia and Noah Macomber will compete in the men’s 1-meter and 3-meter events, with Cassi Blakeman, Brittany Dixon, Abby Smith and Kelsey Vreeman competing on both boards in the women’s championships.
The NCAA Division II swimming and diving national championships begin today in Birmingham, Alabama, and run through Saturday.
Colorado Mesa sent 20 athletes to the event.